Ar Accelerating Converged Infrastructure With Flexpod


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IDC investigates the transformation of IT delivery in the datacenter and the emerging role of pretested solutions that focus on unified, shared infrastructure. The paper focuses on the advent of converged infrastructure solutions that simplify the deployment and management of virtualized environments spanning server, storage, and networking components. The paper then takes a closer look at the FlexPod datacenter solution offered by NetApp and Cisco, with a focus on the VMware vSphere design configuration. IDC examines the importance of professional services to delivering the solution and the key role of a collaborative support model aimed at streamlining the support process for customers and channel partners.

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Ar Accelerating Converged Infrastructure With Flexpod

  1. 1. WHITE P APER Accelerating Converged Infrastructure with the FlexPod Datacenter Solution and the Support Alliance Sponsored by: NetApp Brad Nisbet Rob Brothers July 2011 IN THIS WHITE P IDC investigates the transformation of IT delivery in the datacenter and the emerging role of pretested solutions that focus on unified, shared infrastructure. The paper focuses on the advent of converged infrastructure solutions that simplify the deployment and management of virtualized environments spanning server, storage,F.508.935.4015 and networking components. The paper then takes a closer look at the FlexPod datacenter solution offered by NetApp and Cisco, with a focus on the VMware vSphere design configuration. IDC examines the importance of professional services to delivering the solution and the key role of a collaborative support model aimed at streamlining the support process for customers and channel partners.P.508.872.8200 New Datacenter Challenges The demands placed on todays IT organizations are accelerating on all fronts, with IT executives and administrators feeling the pressure to address a variety of challengesGlobal Headquarters: 5 Speen Street Framingham, MA 01701 USA regarding growth, scalability, and management. From a business perspective, organizations must consider increasing pressures to:  Reduce or eliminate capital expenditure  Streamline and develop more predictable operational expenditure  Rapidly deploy IT services to increasing numbers of internal and external users, including a growing base of mobile users  Comply with regulatory and/or business governance mandates  Leverage the inherent value of business data through increased, real-time analytics From a technological and operational perspective, organizations must consider increasing pressures to:  Offer a growing number and variety of applications across a wide range of users and interoperability levels  Offer these applications securely with the appropriate permissions to users
  2. 2.  Improve asset utilization over an increasingly complex association of networking, physical and virtual server, and storage infrastructure Reduce risk of managing separate compute, storage, and network components, especially when these components have not previously been tested together Reduce and move to more predictable energy consumption for power and coolingDeveloping a Strategy for the VirtualizedDatacenterThe past decade has inspired advancements in technology and solutions that haveenabled enterprise organizations and service providers to begin addressing newbusiness and operational realities in the datacenter today. Advancements in serverand storage virtualization have opened the doors to greater consolidation, improvedutilization, and reduced capital spending. At the same time, the convergence andunification of infrastructure components comprising server, storage, and networking isfueling significant improvement in operational efficiency.With the acceleration toward cloud-based IT delivery models — whether it is a privatecloud or a public cloud, or a combination of both in a hybrid model — the need toestablish a more efficient approach for deploying and managing IT will spanenterprise organizations and public service providers.Organizations are now moving from managing traditional silos of infrastructure andapplications to a more efficient and shared infrastructure that allows for a much moredynamic and flexible response to business needs. As this transformation to a moreflexible IT environment unfolds, a large focus is centered on easing and consolidatingthe management points across IT deployments. As we enter the era of convergedinfrastructure solutions, enterprise organizations will benefit from pretested solutionsthat integrate elements spanning server, storage, networking, and virtualization.Converged Infrastructure SolutionsWithin an enterprise organization, the need to align datacenter IT environments withrapidly changing business goals is intensifying. Advances in hardware and softwaretechnologies, along with enhancements in professional services, have led to anincreasing awareness and growing adoption of converged infrastructure solutions —those that incorporate pretested, integrated elements of server, storage, networking,and virtualization technologies. An effective converged infrastructure solution enablesa single pool of resources and can greatly reduce management complexities andimprove overall IT efficiency.The following expands on the benefits of a converged infrastructure solution: Increase IT responsiveness. By managing efficient pools of IT resources and layering elements of automation, a converged infrastructure solution enables service requests to be fulfilled much easier and more rapidly in response to establishing new and retiring old applications.2 #229575 ©2011 IDC
  3. 3.  Improve utilization and lower capital spending. Individually, initial investments in technologies such as server virtualization and efficient, shared storage can dramatically reduce the number of servers and the storage capacity needed in a datacenter environment. This reduction in capital spending is further amplified in a converged infrastructure solution through the power of an efficient, shared storage solution that is pretested and integrated with virtualized servers and tuned to work efficiently with specific applications under a common management umbrella. Ease management and move to more predictable operational spending. The common management umbrella, enhanced with automation and multitenancy enabled by orchestration management software, can greatly reduce the processes and strains on resources to manage a complex, dynamic IT environment. Minimize power and cooling. Improvements in utilization combined with the benefits of automation capabilities spanning the converged infrastructure environment that enable a more holistic level of control over resources will help minimize energy requirements. Reduce risk. The risk of IT not being able to support the business goals of an organization is greatly reduced as the task of maintaining and managing discrete IT components is inherently more complicated. Simplified and automated management of a virtualized, converged infrastructure solution affords efficient and rapid recovery from server or application failure. In addition, the risk associated with maintaining a converged infrastructure solution is reduced given the pretested and integrated solutions approach.The Importance of Professional and Support ServicesIn addition to the advancements in hardware and software technologies that have enabledthe era of converged infrastructure solutions, professional services will continue to cometo the forefront as enterprise organizations seek to design, build, and manage a highlyefficient, virtualized IT environment. In addition, as part of the ongoing management of theconverged infrastructure solution, an effective support services engagement model willpreserve and enhance the initial value of the deployment over time.Professional ServicesNo single box will address all the concerns of an enterprise IT organization. Even withthe advantages of a pretested, integrated set of elements, each organization will needto consider how an efficient IT environment will best suit its particular business needs.Organizations will seek partners that are able to leverage best practices andexperience in delivering the professional services needed to identify businessrequirements and develop an efficient IT delivery model.An effective professional services engagement will comprise all or portions of thefollowing elements: Consulting and design. To align IT with the business goals of the organization, a converged infrastructure deployment must be designed to address the unique requirements of the organization — taking into consideration size and geographic characteristics of the organization, along with the nature of applications and tolerance for risk. In many cases, identifying the business goals of the organization in the context of the IT environment might be the first step.©2011 IDC #229575 3
  4. 4.  Implementation. To ensure a graceful and efficient transformation to a virtualized and converged environment, professional services suppliers can ensure the proper installation and configuration of the infrastructure and applications. Management. Depending on the capabilities or expectations of the organization, services that address a variety of infrastructure management possibilities can help the organization to address business goals associated with managing the environment.In addition to the professional services that span project-based and ongoing managedservices, a strong support relationship with the converged infrastructure suppliers andpartners is essential. An effective and proactive support agreement not only willreduce the strain on maintaining an efficient environment but also will preserve andprotect the value of the initial investment over time.Support ServicesEnterprise organizations are no longer looking at the deployment of "silo" components;instead, they are looking at the deployment of an end-to-end, converged infrastructureenvironment. When the converged infrastructure solution is running as designed, theenvironment can reduce the IT assets and complexity that datacenter managers have tomanage. At the same time, however, both consolidation and reliance on sharedinfrastructure have dramatically increased the importance of availability.In many cases, enterprises assume that because they have virtualized theirdatacenter environment and are moving toward automation, they will not needsupport for their systems and software. This most certainly is not the case. Thecomplexity of these configurations can cause even the savviest end users to needhelp when things go wrong. Whether it is a hardware issue, a software issue, or auser error, mission-critical servers, storage systems, networking, and the overlayingvirtualization and automation layer will require external support services.The method by which enterprise organizations support the virtualized environment willneed to be different from the traditional system support model. Since mission-criticaldata will be created and maintained on a shared environment (with fewer servers andshared storage), when something goes wrong, it can have a broad impact acrossmany departments in an organization. The ability of organizations to leverage supportteams that have intimate knowledge of their overall converged infrastructureenvironment will be crucial as they look for assurance that their problems will besolved without disruption to their business.These new datacenter designs require vendors that can support new and legacymultivendor hardware rather than just one technology asset. As a result, selecting asupport partner that has a robust multivendor support portfolio and one that can lookacross all of the assets that are required to support the business process becomesincreasingly critical in a highly virtualized environment. The tools used by the vendorand partners to support this should be sophisticated and robust. The ability tomonitor, perform system health checks, and have "phone home" capabilities is a mustin todays environment.4 #229575 ©2011 IDC
  5. 5. To that end, datacenter organizations will increasingly look for partners that can offersupport services for converged infrastructure solutions. The benefits ofcomprehensive support services for converged infrastructure solutions include: Collaborative support. Support coordinated among vendors provides clarity and efficiency when an issue arises among any components within the converged infrastructure solution. The lead services provider initially contacted by the customer evaluates the customers concerns and manages the coordination among all resources to quickly remediate the problem. This approach allows IT staff to focus on other, more important aspects of managing the business. Pretested solutions. The use of pretested solutions affords seamless integration and compatibility of components and reduces risk when replacing faulty equipment or upgrading the environment. The steps taken to ensure that all solution components are compatible lead to less downtime and smaller maintenance windows. Trusted advisor. Through a close and ongoing support relationship, the vendor can leverage intimate knowledge of the unique business, governance, and operational requirements within the enterprise IT organization. This will enable the vendor to fine- tune the environment over time by helping to make strategic and informed decisions. Reduced cost. Consolidating IT assets helps reduce expenses like power and cooling and, in large corporations, can help consolidate and eliminate datacenters. Retiring older systems helps to reduce maintenance costs, as legacy systems often have a higher price tag for support. A strong support alliance and an external staff that is trained with the required expertise have the ability to look at the datacenter in its entirety, helping the customer find ways to either reduce cost or streamline a process.These new converged infrastructure environments can be complex to deploy andsupport, and most companies do not have the internal expertise to addressconverged solutions based on these newer technologies. Engaging with a companythat can gracefully blend its own internal expertise with the expertise of its technologypartners will help an organization to deploy an efficient support model — one that willreduce costs, minimize strain on existing staff, and maintain the value of the initialconverged infrastructure investment.The NetApp Approach: VMware vSphere Builton FlexPodGiven the benefits of consolidating management complexities and increasingefficiency through a converged infrastructure approach, NetApp, in collaboration withCisco and VMware, has invested in an integrated IT datacenter stack called FlexPod.FlexPod is a pretested datacenter solution built on a flexible, scalable, sharedinfrastructure comprising Cisco Unified Computing System servers, the Cisco familyof Nexus switches, and NetApp unified FAS storage systems running Data ONTAPwith FC and FCoE (see Figure 1).FlexPod core components, which span server, networking, shared storage, andvirtualization, are integrated and standardized to help IT organizations eliminateguesswork and achieve timely, repeatable, and consistent deployments. FlexPod has©2011 IDC #229575 5
  6. 6. been optimized with a variety of mixed application workloads and designconfigurations in various environments such as virtual desktop infrastructure andsecure multitenancy environments.Among the initial application workloads and designs that NetApp and Cisco havevalidated are VMware virtualized environments, Microsoft SharePoint 2010, MicrosoftExchange 2010, Microsoft SQL Server, SAP applications, and Citrix XenDesktop andsecure multitenancy deployments. At the foundation of delivering a solution fororganizations that are evolving to a virtualized datacenter is the underlying integrationbetween FlexPod infrastructure and VMware virtualization software. The VMwarevSphere built on FlexPod solution was designed to enable a flexible, convergedinfrastructure in next-generation virtualized datacenter environments.FIGURE 1VMware vSphere Built on FlexPod Core ComponentsSource: NetApp, 2011NetApp has been working with Cisco and VMware since 2003 to test and validatejoint solutions. The alliance between the vendors matured into a formal relationshipbased on the "Imagine Virtually Anything" partnership established in 2009. VMwarevSphere built on FlexPod integrated datacenter solution is one of the recent solutionsdeveloped between the three vendors. NetApp, Cisco, and VMware have continuedto deepen their alliance partnership with the development of the FlexPod referencearchitecture and by establishing a Unified Support Lab that adds high business valueto converged infrastructure solutions. Enterprises not only reap the benefits from a6 #229575 ©2011 IDC
  7. 7. pretested, unified shared infrastructure but also have access to highly experiencedtechnical staff should complex technical issues arise.In addition, NetApp and its partners are fostering an ecosystem of channel partnersthat are qualified to design and implement FlexPod solutions among a growingcustomer base.Benefits of VMware vSphere Built on FlexPodVMware vSphere built on FlexPod provides the following benefits to customers: Centralized management of server, storage, networking, and virtualization (The dramatic increase in management efficiency allows IT administrators to shift from managing discrete components of IT to managing pools of application and infrastructure resources.) Simultaneous management of up to four different applications, which further amplifies the reduction in management complexities and the increase in resource utilization Secure multitenancy to securely manage and isolate pools of resources independently with consistent quality of service (QoS) across each layer with reduced risk and cost Investment protection with the use of NetApp V-Series, affording IT organizations the flexibility to realize the benefits of the FlexPod architecture while still preserving investments already made in multivendor (non-NetApp) storage arrays Storage efficiency enabled by NetApps unified, shared storage architecture and integrated efficiency features such as NetApp Data Deduplication and NetApp FlexVol (thin provisioning), along with NetApps advanced suite of software features that provide a common framework to control, automate, and analyze the customers data Variable deployment maturity as the flexible reference architecture allows customers to deploy at various levels of maturity along the spectrum of virtualized datacenter and private, public, and hybrid cloud deploymentsProfessional Services and Support Programs for FlexPodAs highlighted earlier, the importance of professional services moves to the forefrontas customers consider how to deploy a converged infrastructure solution such asFlexPod. Given the inherent flexibility of the FlexPod datacenter solution, it will benefitcustomers to work with a services provider to design and implement a FlexPoddeployment that fits the organizations unique business and operational requirements.To address customers professional services needs, NetApp and its alliance partnersCisco and VMware, under the "Imagine Virtually Anything" program, have continuedto expand their ecosystem of qualified and trained channel services partners that willdeliver the bulk of design and implementation services for FlexPod solutions.©2011 IDC #229575 7
  8. 8. NetApp offers a FlexPod Implementation Service for storage-only components if adelivery partner wishes to subcontract with NetApp or if a customer wishes to workwith NetApp directly on implementation of the storage components for a FlexPoddatacenter solution.In addition, in response to addressing the importance of support services, NetApp,Cisco, and VMware have established a Support Alliance specifically designed tomaximize the value and efficiency of the FlexPod solution among customers andchannel partners.FlexPod Support AllianceThe partnership between NetApp, Cisco, and VMware allows FlexPod to bring a best-of-breed approach to a converged infrastructure offering. This partnership alsoprovides the customer with an enhanced support experience when issues arise. Thethree companies have established a Support Alliance (see Figure 2) that provides amore streamlined response to identify and quickly resolve potential issues related toFlexPod shared infrastructures. With enterprise organizations strapped for time andresources, the alliance support model greatly improves efficiency when requestingproduct and technology support.FIGURE 2Support Alliance Escalation Process for FlexPod Customer* Contact vendor suspected of issue Problem analysis and Cisco NetApp VMware resolution process started Technical Technical Technical immediately Support Support Support Assist customer to open cases with other vendors If Cross-Vendor Support Escalation Required Coordinated escalations Collaborated cross- Cisco NetApp VMware company engineering and Support Escalation Support Escalation Support Escalation development efforts or Engineering or Engineering or Engineering Vendor engagement and *Valid customer support contracts with all three companies required ownership through resolutionSource: NetApp, 20118 #229575 ©2011 IDC
  9. 9. Vendors have been working on support case integration for years, and most major ITvendors, including NetApp, Cisco, and VMware, subscribe to TSANet. But customersreport that they are not satisfied with vendor cooperation and sometimes feel thatissues are handed off from vendor to vendor. This is particularly vexing for issuesrelated to performance, as it can be a challenge to pinpoint the root causes thattranscend storage, network, servers, and applications. The Support Alliance allowsthe vendors to work together and share in the accountability to resolve their issues.IDC is encouraged to see the vendors making investments in joint support capabilitiesand their commitment to customer success. TSANet is a good starting point becausethis organization defines vendor-neutral processes and communication protocols, butit cannot exist just on paper. NetApp, Cisco, and VMware have raised the bar byinvesting in joint solution, process, and technical training for their technical supportteams. The companies have strong executive commitment and metrics aroundtechnical services delivery.Unified Support LabNetApp, Cisco, and VMware have invested significant resources to create a UnifiedSupport Lab facility in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, for ongoingdevelopment, integration, and qualification of the FlexPod solutions. By designing,deploying, and using FlexPod architectures, the Support Alliance partners aredemonstrating the expertise needed to provide support services and a means for theirengineers to collaborate on problem resolution.The Unified Support Lab helps NetApp and its partners to: Share IT technical knowledge and expertise designed to streamline the path to quick and efficient resolution Invest in product and engineering expertise Establish access to each vendors support teams at the site or via secure remote communications Recreate a customers environment and support issue when needed (typically in the case of escalation) Test other manufacturers equipment that is deployed with or congruent to the FlexPod solution to help remediate any possible issues before they arise Provide a platform to develop and pretest new converged infrastructure solutions and expand the catalog of FlexPod reference architecture Create best practice scenarios for different implementations of the FlexPod solution, which will decrease time to deploy and improve manageability and maintenance at the customers datacenterIn addition to the value the Unified Support Lab currently provides, the lab could alsoincreasingly serve as a central location for expanded, unified FlexPod support activityin the future.©2011 IDC #229575 9
  10. 10. Benefits of the Support Alliance for FlexPodThe Support Alliance provided by NetApp and its partners provides customers andchannel services partners with the following benefits: Effective and flexible first call. The customer can open a support case with the vendor where the issue is suspected — NetApp, Cisco, or VMware. Regardless of which vendor in the Support Alliance takes the first call, issue resolution will begin immediately and collaboration between vendors, if needed, will be provided through the alliance support model. Seamless handoffs. If the first vendor contacted determines the issue warrants the assistance of one of the other partners, the first vendor will provide a "warm handoff" and assist in opening a call with the other vendor on the customers behalf. The customer is then released from the call and the resolution begins. Collaboration for problem resolution is transparent and seamless for the customer. Unified Support Lab. If the case requires escalation, the partners have access to the Unified Support Lab, allowing for a more accurate and facilitated solution to a customers problem. In addition, the lab offers a productive environment to test designs during implementation.Benefits of NetApp Global SupportWhen deploying a converged infrastructure environment, working with a sharedstorage provider that offers global support services and advanced support tools hasits advantages.NetApp provides a multivendor solution to its customers through its SupportEdgePremium offering. Within the context of a storage issue, this provides the customerwith a single point of contact for issue resolution. If the problem lies outside theNetApp product line or cannot be solved by solutions specialists, NetApp will helpopen a support call with the proper vendor to facilitate resolution (note: the customermust have a valid contract with the vendor being contacted).Further, in the quest to keep critical systems up and running, automated support toolsand services play a crucial role. In an effort to proactively keep systems runningefficiently, NetApp Support Automation has intelligence built into Data ONTAP tomaintain high availability within the IT environment. In particular, NetApp offers: AutoSupport. AutoSupport provides ongoing analysis and monitoring of the health of NetApp shared storage systems that provide nonintrusive alerts and parts requests (PREQ). The tool proactively addresses potential issues before they arise and provides secure weekly analysis of system stability and performance issues. My AutoSupport. This Web-based application leverages the NetApp AutoSupport engine and offers a suite of customer self-service tools for configuration, change, and event management. NetApp Remote Support Diagnostics Tool (RSDT). This tool helps NetApp support diagnose and resolve storage system issues without requiring intervention by the customers IT organization.10 #229575 ©2011 IDC
  11. 11. NetApp Global Support and tools provide customers with a flexible support model thatoffers: Improved time to resolution (NetApps first line is directly with technical staff and not simply with a customer service representative who passes along information. The result is efficient and timely support to the customer.) Responsive, global 24 x 7 support with the ability to meet site-specific needs in over 100 countries Proactive monitoring, management, and issue resolution by instituting best practices and leveraging NetApp Support Automation tools Multivendor support and the ability to completely manage a support case issue from opening to full resolution Ongoing insight and improvements to FlexPod design and implementationWith the collaborative support process that is delivered through the Support Alliancefor FlexPod, NetApp and its partners have assembled a service offering that spans allaspects of technology supporting business processes across the enterprise. Fromhardware and software to networking and business services, NetApp servicesportfolio offers a comprehensive approach for enterprises to help resolve pain pointsacross the full application life cycle for complex IT ecosystems.Partner Experience with Support Alliance forFlexPodWhile the Support Alliance model for FlexPod is ultimately aimed at improving theend-user customer experience, it also addresses the needs of channel partners. Oneof the initiatives, "Imagine Virtually Anything," helps ecosystem partners bringFlexPod solutions to enterprise customers. IDC spoke with the CTO at IronBrick, achannel partner that provides IT infrastructure design, integration, and implementationservices to corporate, nonprofit, and government entities in the United States.IronBrick has experience tackling complex data management problems for over 300customers. Since 2007, the company has been focusing on advanced datacentermodernization, building on a foundation of technologies such as virtualization andNetApp shared storage to help transform customer datacenters into next-generationvirtualized and converged infrastructure. The CTO cited a few common themesamong the challenges its enterprise customers are seeing, including: Rapid data growth Concerns around operational and resource limitations Compliance with regulatory and/or business governance mandates Physical datacenter issues regarding space, power, and cooling The desire to deploy IT solutions that enable nimble response to todays dynamic and fast-moving application demand©2011 IDC #229575 11
  12. 12. In looking for a solution to address these challenges, IronBrick, for the past severalyears, has been deploying solutions built on NetApp, Cisco, and VMwarearchitecture. As such, the evolution to become an "Imagine Virtually Anything" partnerwas a natural fit for the company.IronBrick has deployed numerous FlexPod implementations in multinationalorganizations across 10 vertical markets and expects that number to grow rapidly. ForIronBrick and its customers, FlexPod is reducing the time required to bring solutionsto market. With a flexible and efficient partner ecosystem for providing on-demandresources, and a catalog of validated application design guides, FlexPod is one of themost complete private cloud architectures available.Most importantly, IronBrick sees incredible value in having access to the SupportAlliance for FlexPod. For a channel partner like IronBrick, the Support Alliance modelis used both as a resource for the implementation process and to help the customerin an ongoing, long-term support environment.Another key element is the ability for the partner to recreate a customer issue in theUnified Support Lab built by the Support Alliance. The capability to reach back to level3 engineering at any time for any reason affords IronBrick and its customers theconfidence to provide issue resolution in a timely and accurate manner. The lab alsoallows IronBrick the ability to test compatibility scenarios before implementation.IronBrick has engaged the Support Alliance for both implementation and long-termcustomer support purposes, citing particular value in improving the implementationprocess. Other benefits cited by IronBrick include: Training and tools to become a customers trusted adviser Wide variety of service offerings Flexibility in the size of the platform A dedication to the channel strategyFurther, IronBrick explains that the uniqueness of the collaborative relationshipbetween NetApp, Cisco, and VMware to provide support and development stands outas a deeper partnership when compared with more traditional go-to-marketapproaches. In the context of converged infrastructure environments, instead of thechannel partner needing to coordinate the collaboration, this collaboration is alreadyorchestrated by the vendor partners, creating a much more efficient and productiveenvironment to implement and support the solution.Finally, IronBrick points out that while other vendors have attempted to createconverged infrastructure solutions and collaborative support models, the designs arerigid in nature and dont compare to the flexibility of FlexPod. Specifically, FlexPod,with the help of the Support Alliance if needed, provides the ability to deploy inphases; quickly adapt to oscillating business requirements of customers; scale out orscale up — or both — depending on new initiatives or needs; and add resources ondemand in a modular fashion at each layer in the FlexPod stack.12 #229575 ©2011 IDC
  13. 13. IronBrick expects continued growth in its FlexPod implementations, with the jointsupport model playing a key role. As the CTO stated, "These expectations have beenmet in our experience and that of our customers who provided feedback on thealliance support model. Coordination with multivendor issues, response times toproblems, and communication related to ticket status and problem resolution has metexpectations."CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIESIDC believes that NetApp and its alliance partners Cisco and VMware havedeveloped a strong ecosystem of partnerships and solutions to address the growingopportunity related to virtualized and converged infrastructure environments. Inaddition, the Support Alliance for FlexPod will help to maximize support efficiency andmaintain the ongoing value of the initial FlexPod investment over time.With the importance of relationships coming to the forefront, customers willincreasingly be asking vendors for evidence of strong relationships among engineers,managers, and executives within the Support Alliance model. As NetApp and itspartners strive to build upon their reputation for providing a positive customerexperience, they should consider the following: Storage solutions providers such as NetApp are not alone in developing converged infrastructure solutions that address holistic IT deployments comprising server, storage, networking, and virtualization. While this collective investment across many server and storage vendors to bring holistic IT deployments to market validates the approach taken by NetApp to partner with Cisco and VMware, the three companies will need to make sure the alliance and the FlexPod solution remain valuable and relevant in a growing field of competitors. NetApp has already begun to develop advanced levels of automation and service orchestration with respect to managing the overall converged infrastructure environment. It will behoove the company to continue expanding relationships in this area with independent software vendors (ISVs) and application partners to gain advanced capabilities in automated management as well as unique industry application expertise. This increased expertise will only add to the efficiency of the joint support model and processes. The Unified Support Lab maintained by NetApp, Cisco, and VMware to support FlexPod implementation and development will be a key component to success. NetApp should strive to expand the capabilities and value of the lab, which could ultimately lead toward even tighter integration and support of the FlexPod solution for customers and channel partners.CONCLUSIONThe demands placed on todays IT organizations are accelerating on all fronts, with ITexecutives and administrators feeling the pressure to address a variety of challengesregarding growth, scalability, and management. With the advent of convergedinfrastructure solutions — those that address more holistic deployments of server,©2011 IDC #229575 13
  14. 14. shared storage, networking, and virtualization capabilities — the VMware vSpherebuilt on FlexPod datacenter solution born from the partnership between NetApp,Cisco, and VMware is poised to address many of these customer concerns.In striving to achieve "trusted advisor" status with enterprise organizations, NetApp andits services channel partners must leverage a valuable set of tools and processes tomaximize efficiency, provide long-term insight, and create a positive customerexperience. To this end, the Support Alliance, which leverages a Unified Support Laband a framework of technical expertise among all three "Imagine Virtually Anything"partners, provides a unique, unified support process that enables streamlined andefficient infrastructure solution support for FlexPod customers and channel partners.The resulting improvement in support efficiency and the ability to maintain the value ofthe FlexPod solution over time will prove to be a key enabler for NetApp and its partnersto truly become trusted advisors among a growing set of enterprise customers.Copyright NoticeExternal Publication of IDC Information and Data — Any IDC information that is to beused in advertising, press releases, or promotional materials requires prior writtenapproval from the appropriate IDC Vice President or Country Manager. A draft of theproposed document should accompany any such request. IDC reserves the right todeny approval of external usage for any reason.Copyright 2011 IDC. Reproduction without written permission is completely forbidden.14 #229575 ©2011 IDC